A $5.5 million grant recently given to the ASU nursing program by the Arizona Department of Health Services aims to help fix the statewide nursing shortage that has been ongoing since 2020. The 104 students that are accepted for the summer 2023 accelerated baccalaureate program will have their tuition and fees covered by this grant.
The program starts in May 2023, and after 12 months graduates will earn a second bachelor's degree and will be eligible to get their license as a registered nurse. After graduation, the program requires that the cohorts stay and work as nurses in Arizona for four years in an effort to increase Arizona's low nurse retention.
Dean of Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation Judith Karshmer says that the nursing shortage has been looming over the state of Arizona as the population and the average age of nurses is older than the regular population. The average age of a person living in Arizona is 37 years, but according to the Arizona Nurses Association, the average age of practicing registered nurses is 44.6 years.
"COVID helped move some people along towards retirement more quickly than they might have thought about it," Karshmer said. "They were working, taking care of their families, working very stressful jobs and decided to leave the profession."
The grant will also help with finding more faculty at the Edson College, as the nursing program does not have enough positions to accommodate the amount of nursing students. President of Arizona Nurses Association, Heidi Sanborn, says that the lack of nurses to take care of Arizonans constitutes as "a public health crisis."
"Anything that's happening that will contribute to getting more nurses where they need to be to apply their skills and training to take care of patients, that's an absolute win for our state and for our communities," Sanborn said.
AzNA focuses on supporting nurses and the patients they serve in Arizona, working closely with legislation to ensure members are aware of issues like the nursing shortage – the focus of last year's legislation.
"Our legislators heard us, they listened to our nurses who stormed the Capitol at our advocacy day, and really understood the crisis that we have," Sanborn said. "That's one of the big things that we do in our organization is making sure that the nursing voice is heard (by) a decision maker who can get us the funds and the resources that we need to support nurses at the bedside."
Along with ASU, four other universities also received grants from the AZDHS – Creighton University, GCU, NAU and UA. The universities will produce about 900 graduates in 12 to 18 months to benefit Arizonan communities.
Tomi St. Mars, a member of AzNA said the department will be funding the universities that were competitively successful with their applications. AZDHS gave $15 million from the total fund to help the community college districts as well.
"This is a statewide initiative to address the statewide concern, and we have certain geographic areas of our state that are a little bit more stressed with their nursing workforce, specifically our rural and tribal communities," St. Mars said.
Karshmer is confident that they will be able to recruit students for this program as they are accepting applications right now. Her goal is that the Edson College graduates reflect the state of Arizona and that their program can increase opportunities throughout the state.
"Our goal is that we prepare highly capable men and women to advance the nursing profession and provide health care to Arizonans," Karshmer said.
Edited by Sadie Buggle, Reagan Priest and Caera Learmonth.
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